Rest In Peace: Udder Mudder

I have been messing about with several posts even though I made a grand announcement that  I was not going to blog for a while.

Yeah, well… here I am.  I can’t seem to sleep at normal hours and I thought this might be a helpful exercise.

I said goodbye to my aunt this week.  In many situations, that would not be such a close, close thing.

For me; it was and is.

Allie, (Alice Jane Owens nee’ Wiley) was a good deal more to me than ‘just my aunt.’

She always said she was my ‘udder mudder’.    I know that sounds weird but she liked the weirdness of it so that is what we went with.

When I was born, Allie was about 31 and knew she was never going to have children of her own.  I was the surprise child for my parents, who, although normally bright people, never understood birth control.  My sister is eighteen years older than me and was born while both my mom and Allie were teens.  My brother was born four years after my sister  and by that time my aunt and grandma had moved to Missouri so grandma could take over the nursing section of a special polio ward in Springfield.  In fact, she was the “poster nurse” for the March of Dimes and instrumental in getting it started.

But, when I arrived on the scene, Allie was living in Houston; working, and divorced.  She enjoyed her career in the financial world of bonds and whatever it was she did with them:) and traveled a bit.

My grandma was in Houston as well, still nursing. She was a charge nurse at Memorial Herman in the medical district.

We visited them a lot and Allie traveled on most of our vacations with us.

She was my playmate:)

I know I drove her nuts but she tried to be a good sport and color and play barbies and do whatever it was I was asking her to do to pass the time between San Antonio and Estes Park, Colorado.

She was always there for me.  She taught me different lessons than the ones my parents taught me.  But, most of all, I was impressed with the fact that she was a single woman who seemed to do fine in a man’s world and had this sort of life of her own that entailed late nights and trips to New York city.

Sometimes, she was more authoritarian than my parents and I would whine to my mom and dad about it.

She told me that I could, in fact, sleep in the dark.  And, that I did not need to have my fancy new tape recorder on 24/7 with me recording myself making weird noises and playing them back.

And  that recording interviews with my teddy bear was getting old.. fast.

She and I always bunked together.  I wonder now if that became sort of a pain for her.  I do remember her telling me to Please Hold Still.

But, she always listened to what I was trying to say and she always took me places when my parents were off doing their things somewhere else.  I never felt ‘alone’ on long trips when she was along.  She was my very own special all in one friend and adult.

She and my mom always had a complicated relationship.  They sort of nipped back and forth at each other.

I have to say, my dad was pretty patient with it all.  I don’t think he was when they were younger but by my time, they seemed to have it all ironed out.

My aunt was a party animal.

She loved driving and she loved drinking and she loved eating and she loved shopping: She was into every type of excess she could get into at one point or another.

But she was also game to try new things.  She tried downhill skiing with me and mom one year in Colorado.  I think it was a scary experience for her but she did it.

She even tried out my horse once or twice.

I will never forget my husband’s  (boyfriend at the time) introduction to her: We were visiting her in Houston and it was getting late on a Saturday night and we hadn’t had dinner.  She told us to get in the car; we were going to Galveston.  It was a pretty long drive from her part of Houston to Galveston but she didn’t care.  She called some friends and we all met up at Giado’s (well known and nice place to eat and drink on the island) and we had a late dinner and I don’t really remember much else.  I just remember my husband slumped over in the back seat sleeping as she drove her pink Cadillac back into town in the wee hours of the morning.

I also remember her letting me and my  four friends stay with her so we could go to the Texas Renaissance fair.  She cooked for all of us and got out her sewing machine and helped us get some of our costumes finished. My friends were all very creative and had made us all costumes but we weren’t quite ready.

She took care of our puppy when my husband and I had an incredible nine week honeymoon in Europe.   As a reward for her service, he ate the corners of all of her furniture.

So, fast forward a decade:  My dad died at age 66 of renal cancer.

She and my mom moved in together and then added my mother in law to the mix.  For almost ten years, they were the ‘golden girls.’

My kids thought everyone had three grandmas in one house.

When my mother in law decided to break up the threesome, mom and Allie stayed together.  My mom had been fighting two types of breast cancer and the second one was a real bitch.

Mom beat that cancer back into a corner and did experimental treatment that kept it from progressing for almost ten years.

When the cancer finally spread, it was my aunt who cared to her. She literally did everything possible to keep mom at home and comfortable.

Finally, when the cancer went to mom’s brain and she became too tough to handle, Allie had to stop.

That decision plagued her for the rest of her life.

After mom’s death, she rented an apartment in San Antonio and was trying to pick up the pieces of her life.  But, it was clear to me and my husband that the next years would be difficult for her and that she would sicken and die herself.

My husband asked her to move to Austin (Pflugerville)  and help us out with the two kiddos and his own mom, who was dying of Parkinson’s disease at that point . And since his own sister had taken leave of any obligations to her,  we were on the hook for a lot of care.

So, she came.

I know it was hard on her.  She missed her life in San Antonio.  But, I think that as she became more of an active grandmother to the kids, she began to enjoy it.  She was doing something she had never really thought she would do: take over the role of parent and grandparent in an acknowledged and appreciative way.

I know my son loved it when she picked him up at school.  He knew she would always have fresh baked cookies or get taken out somewhere. The two of them had some special jokes and I know she was instrumental in helping both kids recover from the deaths of my mom and Stan’s.

She took my son to the pediatrician and my daughter to get her driver’s licence.  I think she enjoyed doing the things she would have never imagined herself doing.

She cooked dinner for all of us as often as possible.

But, then, the time came that her body rebelled against her excesses.  She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to have a pace maker put in.

Things kept getting a little more complicated from there on, out but still; she was always there and always wanted to know what was going on with us.

She still cooked and baked and did all she could.

She made friends at the senior apartment complex where she lived.

I don’t think she ever knew how strong or how brave she was.  I know for a fact she never thought she was pretty.  Her self esteem was never any good.

But, she continued to mother me: we talked almost every day; in these six years  since my mom passed.

So this is a tribute, a eulogy, a note of appreciation and thanks.

I love you udder mudder.

I will always miss your crazy self.

Please save a seat for me.

I am so glad you are free of a body that simply gave out on you.

Godspeed, sweet Allie.

I miss you.